In the fall of 1951, Fort Worth newcomer Ella J. Tubbs was seeking a worthy charity to support when she came across a Star-Telegram notice for the Goodfellow Fund.
"I called around and inquired to different people," Tubbs remembered recently. "I asked, 'Is that a legitimate business, or one that pockets half the money?' Everybody I talked to said you couldn't go wrong giving to Goodfellows. Every bit goes into clothing and toys for little children."
So Tubbs wrote a check for $25 and mailed it.
The next year, Tubbs, the wife of a movie theater projectionist, did it again.
Never miss a local story.
And the year after that.
In October, the 90-year-old widow, living on a fixed income and in increasingly poor health, sent her $25 check for the 59th consecutive year. With it came a note exhorting others to step up.
"Fully realizing we are in a recession and many are without necessities, making the upcoming holidays look grim, I'm trusting that all who can will help out as much as possible," she wrote.
Her challenge is particularly timely. The Goodfellow Fund directors set an imposing goal this year to raise of $1 million because of the obvious need in the community.
About 80 percent of annual donations come from people like Tubbs who have given before, Richard Greene, the fund's executive director, said.
"There is that core group that we really appreciate," Greene said. "The concern is that we still need to reach new people in the community to let them know about the Goodfellow Fund."
For them, here's the basic background on the fund: It asks Star-Telegram readers to help provide something for schoolchildren during the holidays. It was started in 1912 by Star-Telegram employees, making it the longest-running program of its kind in Tarrant County.
In modern times, the fund has given out gift cards that can be used only for clothing or shoes. Last year, the fund raised a record $876,810 and served 18,000 schoolchildren. This year, 20,000 children will receive $50 gift cards.
Woman on a mission
Tubbs remembers growing up during the Depression in Oklahoma, where her father was a successful businessman, but many of her young friends were not as fortunate.
"One of my best little girlfriends, when her shoes' soles were completely worn out from walking to school in the rain and snow, she would go to the grocery store and the people there would save back the good cardboard boxes," Tubbs remembered. "She would take her little shoes back there, with a pencil and scissors and cut out pair after pair after pair of insoles. A pair might not last a week if it rained or snowed. That's how she went about her shoes, and I knew a lot of kids like that in those years.
"It just hurt my heart real good," Tubbs said. "I thought, if I have any money at all, my goal in life is to try and help, put it in some sort of company that tries sincerely to help little children. That's been my mission."
Mission accomplished. With this year's donation, Tubbs has contributed $1,475 to the Goodfellow Fund.
"I've never had a lot of money, but I've never been as poor as I am now," she said. "I don't begrudge a penny of it."